A local activist in Mount Pleasant has gone public about a website she says is targeting her for being outspoken about village operations and elected officials.
Kelly Gallaher is well known in political circles in Racine County and has openly butted heads with leadership in Mount Pleasant for years. In May, a website called Let’s Make a Better Mt. Pleasant was started, and in the months since, the majority of the posts on this website have taken aim at Gallaher. It has also focused on Trustees Ken Otwaska, Gary Feest and Jon Hansen. In October alone, the website published six posts, all focused on Gallaher.
The name of the blog is a play on the Facebook page Gallaher and other residents of Mount Pleasant created a couple of years ago: A Better Mt. Pleasant.
Who’s the author remains a question
Gallaher told Racine County Eye she believes Village President David DeGroot is behind the blog, but she has no proof. Gallaher concedes that because the author is anonymous it could be anyone.
DeGroot denied having anything to do with Let’s Make a Better Mt. Pleasant or knowing anything about the site.
“I have no idea what she’s talking about,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have time to read or care about the website.
Gallaher said she contacted law enforcement about the website and its harassment of her, but because the comments are delivered through a public online venue and not directly to her through notes, emails or voicemail messages, there is no legal recourse.
“The laws in Wisconsin have not kept up with technology,” Gallaher added. “That means we can’t get a subpoena to find the owner of the website to get them to stop.”
DeGroot has long bumped heads with Gallaher in village politics and had a very public spat with her when he refused her to speak during public comment at a board meeting a few weeks ago, citing foul language she supposedly uttered after a meeting. During his comments, DeGroot told her that he would have thrown Gallaher “out on (her) can,” had he heard her use profanity. He was later censured by his fellow trustees for the incident – with Havn and Hewitt voting against the censure – and commentary about the incident appeared the next day on Let’s Make a Better Mt. Pleasant website.
The incident, the censure and comments made in subsequent public meetings, specifically one made by Gallaher’s husband about DeGroot fantasizing about his wife, became a significant point of interest for the author during the time around the incident and in the ensuing weeks. Several posts mock “fantasizing” about Gallaher, and one reads that the author can’t wait until the three trustees that voted to censure DeGroot “go out on their cans” in the next election.
When asked if he thinks it would be appropriate for a village official to run a website like the one in question DeGroot said he doesn’t know that a village official is behind it, so he didn’t really have a comment.
“I don’t have time to screw around with what she’s talking about, number one, and I’m really not paying attention to what she is writing or what anybody else is writing,” DeGroot said. “I don’t care. The whole thing irritates me.”
Former Trustee Ana Marie Clausen posted a link to the website on her trustee Facebook page in late May, nine days after the site’s first post.
“To keep up-to-date on what’s happening in Mount Pleasant, check out the new blog,” she wrote at the time.
Clausen said she has nothing to do with the website, and that after posting the link she never went back to the site.
“I was told they were going to put up this website to promote the positive side (of the village),” Clausen said. But, when asked who told her about the site, she said she can’t remember.
Political commentary vs. personal attacks
Gallaher maintains the Better Mt. Pleasant page sticks to policies and village issues without delving into personal attacks; commentary there can be biting and focuses on village meetings, procedures, what trustees say at meetings and actions taken by committees and the village board. Gallaher points out that being critical of government and elected officials is much different than attacking a private citizen the way Let’s Make a Better Mt. Pleasant does.
Gallaher admits that at times the page is silly, referring specifically to the “Sonny Pancakes” nickname given to Trustee Sonny Havn. The nickname comes from pictures posted on the Better Mt. Pleasant page of Havn and other village trustees with some former and current employees having breakfast at a Sturtevant restaurant. The breakfast gatherings are viewed by some in the village as secret meetings that violate open meetings laws. The photos and the nickname have drawn Havn’s ire; he mentioned the posts during at least one previous board meeting.
Gallaher said she started to become significantly uncomfortable after comments on the website indicated that someone was following her after village board meetings, and, in September, when a post listed her home address as the location of a fake village town hall meeting.
The first few posts on the website are largely benign. The author was going after Feest, Hansen, and Otwaska, and was mostly fulminating about deadlock over the appointment of a seventh trustee. But the posts are largely about village board votes and issues. It does mention Gallaher a few times, and in the sites very first post, it says any problem in the village, “Lies in the fact that a very small group of people being led by a Community Organizer/Activist have overtaken the Village Board meetings for almost two years.”
Starting in June, though, the website started to go after Gallaher with more temerity. The first post, “Community Organizer Continues to Disrupt Village,” implies that Feest, Hansen, and Otwaska cast votes only how Gallaher instructs them. Subsequent posts call Gallaher a moron and also refer to Otwaska, Feest and Hansen as dimwits. Additional posts over the next few months exclusively target Gallaher and the three trustees, including noting that Gallaher went to a local restaurant for dinner after a village board meeting.
Gallaher and Hansen have become a particular focus for the website, often impling the two are having an affair. The author has called Gallaher a snake and Hansen a dimwit, DimNuts, and even gone after Hansen’s record as a police officer.
Using the court of public opinion
Gallaher read a number of excerpts from the website during the public comment section of Monday Oct. 23 Village Board meeting and at two village committee meetings this week. She plans to continue visiting village meetings and reading from the website to shine a brighter light on the posts about her.
“Someone or several someones know who is writing these things, and, now I’m hoping those people will get whoever this is to stop because not only are attacks on private citizens not okay, but the village is on the verge of unprecedented growth and development,” Gallaher explained. “Is this really the face of the village we want potential investors to see?”